With Louisville in Town, Virginia Defense Not Susceptible to Letdowns

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 1:05 PM UTC

Our NCAA handicapper Mark Lathrop has cooled off ATS during conference play in his SBR write-ups. However, no team has been as hot as No. 2 Virginia this year, and there seems to be no reason not to back it at home Wednesday vs. Louisville.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 26-21 (+3.60 Units)

Louisville Cardinals at No. 2 Virginia CavaliersFree NCAAB Pick: Virginia -9 (buy half-point)Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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Not much is challenging the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers these days, especially at home where the Louisville Cardinals will be visiting Wednesday night in a game that will be televised on ESPN2. The Cavaliers come in on a 12-0 SU and 7-1 ATS trend, with that one ATS loss by a mere 2 points on the road at Syracuse in a 68-61 victory. Virginia’s defense is also on an incredible run with an 8-1 'under' streak in the last nine games. In fact, the Cavaliers' defense is on a historic pace of efficiency to this point in the season.

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NCAA Statistical Rankings:
1⃣ Scoring Defense (51.6 ppg)
2⃣ FG% Defense (36.4%)
2⃣ Fouls Per Game (13.8)
4️⃣ Turnovers Per Game (9.5)
7️⃣ Turnover Margin (5.1)
7️⃣ Scoring Margin (17.6)
7⃣ 3FG% Defense (29.1%)
1⃣5⃣ A/TO Ratio (1.46)
2⃣2⃣ FT% (76.8%)
🔶⚔️🔷 #GoHoos pic.twitter.com/qr6arUHdTu

— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) January 26, 2018
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It is hard to make a case to pick against the Cavaliers looking at the statistics, but the Cardinals have done enough this season to make a strong case. They sit second in the ACC at 6-2 SU and carry a 16-5 SU record into this matchup. Louisville is also 7-1 ATS in the last 8 games with that one ATS loss by two points at Boston College in a 77-69 win. Being on the road has not treated the Cardinals well in David Padgett’s first season at the helm, though, with the team carrying a -4.2-road scoring differential. They shoot especially poorly on the road at 39.7% from the field overall and average 75.3 points per game on 65 attempts.

Those attempts numbers are due to take a hit in this game as Virginia allows opponents just 51 shots per game on its home court this season. At a 35.3% opponent field goal percentage allowed, that equals just a 50.1 point per game average. Crunching the numbers and splitting the difference in attempts, it could be expected that the Cardinals only put up around 56 points in this game. This is actually on the generous side according to KenPom projections, who has Virginia holding Louisville to 51 points.

I spoke to Jeff Nadu (SBR Big Man on Campus - Twitter @JeffNadu) about this game Tuesday night, asking if there was a possibility of a letdown here for Virginia after a tough and important win at Duke over the weekend. He wasn’t keen on the idea, and after our discussion neither was I. You see, defense such as Virginia’s is not susceptible to cold spells like a team depending on hot shooting. Also, this will be Coach Padgett’s first test against the Virginia defense – on the road, no less. I don’t see a reason to step in front of Virginia’s run here, and will take the Cavaliers -9 as my Wednesday NCAAB Pick.

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